Will short sales be derailed by gridlock in Congress?

July 17, 2012

It is an understatement to say that we have an almost totally dysfunctional Congress right now. The combination of extreme polarization of positions by the two parties and election year political posturing has resulted in almost total gridlock. Both parties share the blame for this mess, as both have moved themselves further and further away from any middle ground and the ability to compromise to get any business done on behalf of the American people. It is debatable whether this state of affairs is representative of the state of the nation or not. Let’s just leave it that it’s a shame and a mess.

One of the biggest issues that this non-functional body has to supposedly decide this year has to do with taxes – whether to extend the various taxes or tax cuts that are due to expire at the end of the year. Rather than any thoughtful discussion of the merits of any of the taxes or cuts involved, the “debate” (if one can call it that) has devolved into campaign sloganeering and name calling. Typical stuff in today’s Washington.

Lost in the calliope of bluster from both sides is the fate of a little Act of Congress that is the cornerstone of the short sale business in real estate – The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007. This act, which was extended in 2008 by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, provides protection from taxation on the loss incurred by the bank for home short sales. Basically it protects the home seller from being given a 1099 Statement on the amount that the bank had to forgive in order to let the short sale happen. Prior to this Act, home seller would receive that 1099 and be responsible for paying taxes on that amount, just as if it was ordinary income to them for that year. The so-called “Phantom Income” from the sale was treated the same way as a withdrawal from a non-qualified IRA – as if you had received a bonus at work and now Uncle Sam wants his cut.

Obviously, having to pay taxes on money that you never really received was and is onerous to home owners/seller; so, the expected consequence if this tax law is allowed to expire will be a drastic reduction in short sales. That will undoubtedly have the effect of increasing foreclosures, since a short sale is a last resort before foreclosure for many sellers and that would likely throw the whole real estate market for a backward loop into the doldrums again.

So call or write your Congressman and tell them – “Get off your duffs and get to work for me!” Tell them that we can’t afford to let the real estate market slip back into recession while they fiddle around in TV sound bites doing nothing. There needs to be another extension of The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 before the end of this year. Then they can get back to the mud-slinging and political posturing over what, if any, portion of the so-called “Bush Tax Cuts” to extend and whether or not to completely fail in their elected duties and let the mandated automatic tax cuts of the Budget Control Act occur in January of 2013.

Granny’s Attic Sale a Success…now on to Milford Memories

July 16, 2012

The Granny’s Attic Sale that the Milford Historical Society (MHS) held last Friday and Saturday was a big success. We sold lots of stuff; however, we also had lots of stuff left over and actually had more donations coming in each day. So, we’ve decided to have a Granny’s Garage Sale during the Friday and Saturday of the upcoming Milford Memories Festival. The sale will be on the front lawn of the Milford Historical Museum again. The times will probably be about the same as last weekend 9 am until 4 pm each day; but check in at the Milford Historical Web site – www.milfordhistory.org  – as we get closer to Milford Memories for details and the times of the sale. Proceeds from the sales go to support the mission of the MHS.

The recent Summer Palooza on Main St was a miniature dress rehearsal for the big show – Milford Memories. The Milford Memories Festival, coming up on August 13, 14 &15, is rated one of the best in the country by the vendors themselves, so it brings out the best arts and crafts vendors. It has also become a must attend summer tradition for thousands of Michigan people from surrounding areas. There will be lots of added events and things for the whole family going on during Milford Memories, so plan to spend a whole day in Milford during that weekend. For more on the upcoming  Milford Memories Festival click here.

In the interim there are lots of things going on in Milford and Highland and the surrounding areas. For an up-to-date calendar of events in the area go to www.movetomilford.com and look at the Upcoming Community Events. There is just no excuse to be bored this summer in the Huron Valley.

Don’t miss the Granny’s Attic Sale

July 13, 2012


Granny’s Attic

When you come out for the Summer Palooza in downtown Milford today and tomorrow, don’t miss the Granny’s Attic Sale being run on the front lawn of the Milford Historical Museum at 124 E. Commerce Rd, just one block east of Main Street in Milford. The sale is run by Duane Freitag, a local antiques dealer and member of the Milford Historical Society. Duane makes his living doing estate sales and dealing in antiques. During the course of the year he assembles quite an eclectic collection of items from those estates and donates them to the Milford Historical Society for the Granny’s Attic Sale.The sale isn’t like a typical garage sale. There are no clothes or baby clothes, just household items, furniture and antiques and collectibles. For more information on the sale and to see pictures of some of this year’s sale items click here.

Is the time right for you?

July 12, 2012

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this gem – “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” (Napoleon Hill) Hill was one of the original writers of the value of positive thinking. “Believe it, and you can achieve it.”

If there was ever a saying that we, as Realtors, need to get across to potential sellers it is that one. Too many seem to be frozen by the wait for just the right time. For a long while it was waiting until the value decline stopped. Well, it has stopped in most areas and values are now inching back up. So, now, too many are waiting for the value to come back to where it was. That will be a long wait – at least a decade or more in most areas.

We Realtors tend to think that people aren’t listing because they are underwater on their mortgages. Many would-be seller aren’t underwater at all; they just can’t let go of the “value” that they thought they had at the peak of the market. So my advice is “Let it go.” You need to get real and let go of the mental picture that you are clinging to of the value of the place at the peak of the real estate bubble. Your house has lost 25-40% (depending upon the area) of its peak value. It is what it is today. Right now there are buyers out looking. If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines waiting for things to be just right, this is as close as it’s going to get in quite a while. Take to heat the message of Napoleon Hill – “The time will never be just right.”

In fact, the time is as right as it can get, right now in many areas. The foreclosure inventory has been depleted in many market areas, with fewer new foreclosures happening currently. We have flipped over to a seller’s market here in my area, with too many buyers chasing too few listed homes. Multiple offers and offers above asking price are the norm now. Sellers are selling faster and getting market price for their homes right now; they just won’t get 2006 market price. So, if you’ve been delaying your plans to make that retirement move or that move to downsize your life, now is the time to take action. Call your local Realtor and explore the market value of your home with him/her. The time is right to take action.

Take time to dream…

July 11, 2012

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this inspirational piece of advice – “You have to dream before your dreams can come true.” (Abdul Kalam)

How true. Sometimes we let the slog of daily life consume so much time and energy that we forget to dream or lose sight of our original dreams. Whether you call it dreaming or visualizing, you have to have goals in mind that you are working towards. Otherwise another old saying takes over your life – Where ever you go, there you are.”

More often that I care to admit I’ll end a day and realize that I got caught up in the minutia of life and failed to put any effort or time into things that would further reaching my goals or dreams. Sure many of the things that I did needed to be done. There are always things that need to be done; and, if you let them just take over and control your life, you’ll never get around to dreaming or doing those things that need to be done to realize your dream.

There is an interesting story in this week’s Bloomberg Business Week about a single mom with two children struggling to make it in one of the nation’s worst areas of economic blight. It could be a really depressing story, especially since Bloomberg has taken the slant that this is a story about the decline of America; however, the story focuses enough on one aspect of this woman and her daily struggles to make it inspirational.  She has a dream of a better life for herself and her children and nothing that she has to endure on a daily basis is able to shake her off accomplishing that dream.

So give yourself a break today and take some time to dream. Visualize what it is you want or where you want to go in life and then set about planning how to achieve your dream. Working on accomplishing that plan will make every day feel a little better.

The disservice of an entitlement mentality…

July 9, 2012

I always cringe a bit whenever I hear someone start a sentence with “It’s my right…” So many times the person is not really talking about a right, but rather a privilege or maybe even a charitable act; yet a mentality of entitlement has taken over in America and that person now believes somehow that they have a right to that privilege or that charity.

Such mentality, I believe creeps into the day-to-day lives of some in the form claiming some form of right to ignore rules and laws, especially traffic laws. There appear to be people who don’t believe that traffic signs or speed limits apply to them. It’s somehow their right to ignore them.  I encountered such a dunderhead this past weekend at a shopping mall. The mall is repairing and repaving a part of the parking lot and so they had one of the entrances partially blocked off. With barricades and clear signage they had designated the lane that was still open as an entrance only. Big, clearly visible one-way signs pointed in. Yet as I tried to enter there sat the dunderhead (and a couple more idiots behind him} who had chosen to exercise their “right” to use that lane as an exit. And they got mad at me for trying to enter, honking and shaking fists. I could see them mouthing, “I’ve got a right to be here, too.”

I see examples of people completely ignoring stop signs all the time in my neighborhood or parking big, long-bed, crew cab trucks in parking slots that are marked “Compact Cars Only”, thus partially blocking traffic by sticking way out into the roadway. I’m sure that most of these people have evaluated the relatively low probability of ever getting a ticket for their miscreant behavior and that adds to the entitlement mentality that starts out with the thought that whatever the rule or law, it just doesn’t apply to you, because “It’s my right to park here.”

The truth is that you have a few fundamental rights that were granted to all citizens in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, plus a few more that have been codified into law as rights of all citizens. Most of the rest involves privileges that were granted by law or hand-outs that happen because the government or someone has taken pity on those in need. They are not rights and can be taken away at will.

So, the next time you start off a sentence with ‘”I have a right”, stop and think about it. Do you really or have you just decided that you are somehow entitled.  Remember that I have the right to call the Ordinance Enforcement Officer the next time I see your big truck parked in the Compact Cars Only area; and that’s a right that I will exercise.

On-line shopping frustrations…

July 7, 2012

Recently my wife and I spent a few hours in several stores looking for a bed skirt (dust ruffle, if you prefer) with a 20” drop. We raised our bed so that our dog Sadie could crawl under it easier when she gets scared by fireworks or thunder.  So now we need a 20”-drop bed skirt. Try finding that in your general purpose stores like Walmart or Target or Kohl’s. They carry all sorts of standard 14” and 15” drop bed skirts for all sizes of beds, but not 20” drops.

Unlike many people who I know, I generally like shopping for things on-line. It’s really amazing how you can find even the most obscure stuff for sale somewhere by someone. Sometimes that can be a problem, especially since you have no idea if those someone’s are honest or not or whether they will actually deliver the product or stand behind it if it needed to be returned.  That’s where big, trusted aggregators’ sites like eBay and Amazon come in. They supposedly create a trusted shopping environment that takes care of things like payments and returns and disputes.

So, off I went on my on-line search for 20” drop bed skirts. Just type that into Google or Bing and you’ll get lots of responses. Many of the sites that popped up I the results didn’t really have bed skirts with 20” drops, just lots of regular bed skirts. That’s one drawback of the search engines – they don’t always do a good j0ob of filtering out things to match your exact search input. After some human filtering I found what looked like a good deal on what I was looking for on eBay. They had 20” drop bed skirts in the size that I need in stock and at a reasonable price.

I tried to buy the bed skirt, but had to end up abandoning the shopping cart (hear that eBay, another abandoned shopping cart) because the eBay shopping cart application insisted on not allowing me to check out unless I acknowledged that I had earlier set up an account with the same email address that I tried to use this time.  I vaguely recall signing up for an account many months ago, while trying to buy something else; but, I have long since forgotten what password I might have used. Besides that, I checked the box that said that I wanted to check out as a Guest and not using my account. I left and the bed skirt went un-purchased (hear that eBay bed skirt purveyor).

I suppose that I could have gone back and checked out as a Guest using another email address (like many people I’ve ended up with 3-4 email accounts), but the point was and is that eBay’s system is not customer friendly. If the app asked me on the way into the checkout process if I wanted to check out as a Guest, it should have allowed that, no matter what my email address. Had the shopping cart app even given me another chance to refuse to sign into my account and check out as a Guest, instead; I would have completed the purchase. But, because the eBay Shopping Cart app insists that I sign into an account that I really don’t need or care about any more and will not let me proceed unless I do; I will find my bed skirt elsewhere.

There’s a lesson in here for eBay and other on-line sites. You still need to provide a customer-centric shopping experience, not one that forces the customer to bend to your needs or rules. I appreciate that you have a record of my last visit in your database and that I might have even signed up for an account at some time in the past; however, this is now and I just wanted to get in and out and be done with this shopping trip as quickly and easily as possible (sort of like at a real store). If you keep throwing up a bunch of roadblocks just to meet your own needs; as they say in New Jersey – Furgetaboutit!

I get Website Magazine, because I’m a Webmaster myself for five informational sites (as opposed to the transactional sites that I’m writing about here). The latest issue talks about shopping cart abandonment as the biggest problem facing internet merchants. According to the story in Website Magazine 70% of shopping carts are abandoned before the transaction is completed. I wonder how many are abandoned for something as stupid as my experience with eBay. Have any of you had similar experiences you’d like to share?

Next up in Milford the Summer Palooza!

July 6, 2012


palooza in progress

What the heck is a palooza, anyway? According to the Urban Dictionary it is – an all-out crazy party; partying at one place with a ton of people like there’s no tomorrow. Let’s hope that’s true for Milford’s Summer Palooza. That place to party is the Milford downtown stretch on Main Street between Commerce and Liberty. July 13 thru July 15. This event started over 50 years ago out as a Sidewalk Sale and then grew, with the addition of entertainment and beer tents into Shop Rock and Stroll for several years. Now it’s the Summer Palooza! The event is presented by the Milford Business Association and the Milford Downtown Development Authority.

Shopping at the palooza runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. In addition to the beer tent at the Main Street Grill and Tavern location, there will also be a Vegas tent, where patrons will have their choice of playing on six blackjack tables, three poker/Texas Hold ‘Em tables, one “Let it Ride” table, and one roulette table, among others. Funds raised at the Vegas tent will go to support a local charity.

The beer/food and Vegas tents will be open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Many of Milford’s downtown restaurants also offer dining on the village sidewalks, and there will also be live musical performances by several local bands

There will be also activities for children. Kids will be able to play on bouncers, as well as scale a rock climbing wall and dunk someone in a dunk tank.

Maybe I’ll see you at the Palooza. I only live two blocks from downtown Milford, so I can walk home. If you intend to party like there’s no tomorrow call Snowbird Drivers and arrange for a personal chauffer for the evening. They’ll be your designated driver for about ¼ of the cost of renting a limo for the evening and WAY below the cost of a DUI conviction.

Of self-proclaimed experts and coaches…

July 5, 2012

I have observed with interest and amusement lately as some of the people who I have encountered proclaim themselves to be experts on one thing or another. In many cases they point to absolutely no formal education or even training by any recognized institution, just a flash of self-actualization that has given them the confidence to proclaim that they can help others because of their new-found “expertise.”

Many of these people have started personal services businesses based around this expertise and have taken on the self-anointed title of “Coach” for whatever it is that they now feel is their life calling. Some are Health Coaches, some are Life Coaches; some proclaim themselves to be e-Marketing Coaches or Search Engine Optimization Coaches or Social Networking Coaches or maybe just Business Coaches. Almost none of them have college degrees in whatever it is that they are coaching and some may be inadvertently offering incorrect advice or potentially dangerous products out of ignorance of the field within which they have chosen to coach.

Now, I have nothing against someone with some proven and demonstrable skill or expertise trying to help someone else, even if they charge for it. However, I would like to see some proof of some level of education or training on the subject at hand. That education or training should also have more weight than some of the “certification” courses that I’ve seen in the real estate world. Someone who pays a couple of hundred bucks to sit through a day or two of classroom lectures that are mainly focused upon terminology and common sense advice should not be too prideful of the “Certified Whatever” that they are told they can use on their business cards  because they attended the course.

Many of these coaches stress their role as an accountability partner for the person being coached. They take responsibility for the role that your mother or father or spouse used to have – cajoling you to actually do what you committed to do. There is a value in that, I suppose. I’m as guilty as the next person of letting myself off the hook occasionally on commitments. So if you  just need someone to kick you in the behind to get you going, or keep you going, look for a coach.

I suppose that I could classify the mentoring that I do at the real estate office as a form of coaching; however, since real estate is a job with surprises and new learning experiences in every deal, I have never felt that I’ve had enough experiences in my 10+ years in the business to take on the self-proclaimed title of Coach. The role of Coach in a real estate brokerage is really vested in the Broker for that company and perhaps the senior office managers that are designated for each sales office. Maybe I could be an Assistant Coach in that setting.

Next time you meet one of these self-proclaimed coaches, maybe you  should ask them, “So, Coach, what degrees do you have in this field or what training have you been through to prepare you for this role?” A good follow-up line might be, “Explain to me the methodology that you use in your coaching approach to this field.” If “the school of hard knocks” is the primary source of the expertise being claimed by the Coach and the methodology is that you just sit and talk about it with the coach; think about whether that is what you really need or not. If they claim that they will be bugging the heck out of you to meet the commitments that you make with them, be honest with yourself about whether you need that and want that.

There are some really good, well-educated or trained coaches out there in many fields. Make sure you know what kind of coach you are getting before you sign up to be on his/her team.

Only a news segment…

July 4, 2012

Oops! The initial report that I got which said that Channel 2 The Fox Network was going to broadcast our parade has proven to be inaccurate. They are going to tape segments of the parade to be used on Fox 2 News tonight. Oh, well, some exposure is better than no exposure at all. So look for us on the news tonight on Channel 2.

This will be one of our bigger parades of the year, with over 70 entries. Lots of politicians will be out, which might add some hot air to an already warm day. Bring your umbrellas (to shield yourself from the sun; there’ll be no rain on the parade) and your bottled water to stay hydrated; but please don’t bring your dog downtown, it will be way too crowded and hot for them. You might want to bring a little bag for the kids to put candy into when they get it.

The theme of this year’s parade is “Milford, Our Little Slice of Heaven”; however, with the passing of Andy Griffith, I couldn’t help but think of Milford as our own little Mayberry. Andy patterned the Mayberry setting for his show about a small town Sheriff after his home town of Mounty Airy, SC; however, I’m sure that he would have immediately related to Milford in a similar way.

Enjoy the parade today!